Katie Hopkins Loses Libel Claim following Twitter Spat

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13 March, 2017

Jack Monroe v Katie Hopkins [2017] EWHC 433 (QB)

Katie Hopkins is notorious for her controversial views and her outspoken comments. Two misplaced tweets on Twitter have this week cost her £24,000 in damages and over £107,000 in legal fees.

In May 2015, Katie Hopkins tweeted:

"@MsJackMonroe scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?"

"Can someone explain to me - in 10 words or less - the difference between irritant @PennyRed and social anthrax @Jack Monroe."

Jack Monroe brought a libel claim, arguing that the tweets accused her of vandalising a war memorial and desecrating the memory of those who fought for her freedom, or of approving or condoning such behaviour.

Katie Hopkins had in fact "mistakenly" used Jack Monroe's Twitter handle instead of that of another columnist who had written about the war memorial incident. Katie Hopkins said that the tweets did not suggest that Jack Monroe behaved in this way and argued that the tweets were not defamatory according to common law principles; and, did not cause serious harm to Jack Monroe's reputation, as required by s 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.

Mr Justice Warby ruled that the tweets had caused "Ms Monroe real and substantial distress, but also harm to her reputation which was serious" and she was entitled to "fair and reasonable compensation". The judge added: "These are meanings with a defamatory tendency, which were published to thousands."

The final costs figure has yet to be assessed.

Forbes comment

This is one of the first cases involving Twitter and the 'serious harm' threshold set out in the Defamation Act 2013. According to Jack Monroe's lawyer: 'Hopkins claimed that Twitter was just the Wild West where anything goes. The judge has shown that there is no such thing as a Twitter outlaw.'

Following Mr Justice Warby's interpretation of the serious harm test in the context of Twitter, it seems likely that others will follow and be encouraged to bring libel claims of their own. To succeed, litigants must be able to establish 'serious harm' to their reputation.  As well as proving that a statement had a defamatory tendency; claimants must also prove as a matter of fact that their reputation suffered, or is likely to suffer, serious harm as a result of the publication complained of.

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